Strengthening youth engagement in your agency requires full agency buy-in from all staff and leadership (senior management team and the board of directors). These groups need to fundamentally understand the importance of youth engagement, make a commitment to implementing it and dedicate the appropriate resources required to support it.
How to get buy-in?
- Highlight the alignment of youth engagement with your agency’s vision and values.
- Use findings from the youth engagement readiness assessment to create a presentation to senior management, focusing on what’s already working well as well as areas for growth/enhancement.
- Share youths’ experiences. Don’t underestimate the power of young people’s stories. Nothing is more convincing than hearing how youth engagement has impacted a young person’s life
- Highlight the rationale underlying the decision to implement youth engagement during discussions with senior leaders. Explain the clear health outcomes and the benefits to youth, the staff, the agency and the community.
- Identify any potential implementation barriers (e.g. funding, staff time, readiness) and engage them in a discussion about how these can be overcome.
- If possible, present examples where your agency has successfully implemented an evidence-informed practice and talk about how you can build on past successes.
Once you get buy-in, what’s next?
Consider forming a core team to lead youth engagement at the agency and community levels. While the implementation team will carry out the actual youth engagement initiatives that people agree on, the core team (made up of senior management, board members, young people who represent the diversity of their community and have experience participating at the systems level, managers, etc.) will play a leadership role in the change and embrace it as a strategic priority. Here are some initial questions the core team may want to consider in getting started (adapted from the Freechild Project Youth Engagement Workshop Guide)
- What is the vision for youth engagement in your agency/service area (i.e. where would you like to be in one year? And three years?)
- What is your motivation for implementing youth engagement?
- How does youth engagement fit with your current agency/service area priorities?
- What resources currently exist in your agency/service area to support youth engagement?
- What are the agency/service area’s strengths and needs?
- How will you track success?
- How will you address any challenges that arise?
As you implement strategies to move your agency along the continuum of youth engagement, you may want to develop a senior management charter that outlines the purpose, overall goals, expected results, project scope, roles and responsibilities, resources, risk, barriers and facilitators to implementation.